Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Day in the Bromley Union Workhouse

"And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us,and all of us." -Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

Any consideration of Christmas Day in the Workhouse of Bromley Union must consider the example of Charles William Gedney a Union Guardian.
In 1927 he died pacefully in his sleep in early January shortly after he had organised his 57th year of Christmas Day celebrations for the inmates of the Workhouse.
This year round activity involved securing donations from the public of the parishes of The Union to make the hundreds of men women and children unfortunate enough to be inmates at Christmas feel something of Christmas.
The staff of the Workhouse and their families were also recruited to the cause and donations of decorations and large amounts of evergreens from various estates in the district were put to use to decorate the chapel, wards of the Infirmary and day rooms throughout the site. The dining hall was heavily decorated throughout the beamed ceiling.
Gedney ensured toys for each child which he distributed whilst the men would be offered very acceptable tobacco and the women packets of sugar and tea.
Most Workhouses received such gifts but Bromley is exceptional in that one Guardian took responsibility for so many decades. His sons had grown up spending their Christmas Day as a family giving their time to those in need and in support of their father's work.
Christmas Dinner was nearly always reported in local newspapers and consisted of roast beef and roast pork, mutton and plum pudding. Alcohol was not provided but Mister Gedney always secured mineral water donated by a local company.
In the evening musical and other entertainments were organised with visitor musicians and singers to entertain.
Mister Gedney usually received a traditional vote of thanks from The Master of the Workhouse and would make a short speech of thanks. Occasionally in some years he prevailed upon the Chair of the Board of Guardians to appear.
In 1908 he was able to make a speech and appreciate the introduction of old age pensions. Initially the pension of five shillings a week from 1 January 1909 was not available to those in receipt of poor law relief. Mister Gedney suggested that were 5 shillings a week available to relatives many elderly residents of the Workhouse over 70 years of age would find home with family members.(From 1 January 1911 those over 70 years of age in receipt of Poor Law Relief  were adopted into the scheme and Act of 1908).
Bromley Union had prior to this had a larger than average number of inmates over 70 and had a reputation of an enlarged Infirmary and improved accommodation for children from 1909. Gedney's prediction proved accurate as the number of people over 70 fell throughout the remainder of his years as a Guardian.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Charles William Gedney Part II Poor Law Guardian

Gedney was as I described in part I of this blog a pungent and outspoken critic of the decision by Bromley Union's Poor Law Guardians to exclude journalists from Board meetings held at the Union Workhouse. This coupled with criticism of the diet offered to inmates which had featured prominently in a General Election  lead Gedney to submit his name for election as a Guardian. His first efforts were unsuccessful but as he developed criticism of the way children were housed with adults in the Workhouse and the Guardians lack of response to Local Government initiatives to board such children out in foster homes over a 15 year period he was duly elected by Bromley Parish as a Guardian.
From the outset this forward thinking amiable man was to devote his service to the lot of destitute women and children in particular.
He was outraged by the Workhouse education of children and argued for attendance at local Board schools; later when the Farnborough School Board expanded the school the Board were to offer places at the school for children from the nearby Workhouse on condition that they did not "wear Workhouse habit" to school.
His concern for education generally lead to his election to the Bromley School Board and he and Miss Hepple were the only two members to remain until Bromley became a Council and an Education Committee assumed responsibilty. The popularity of these two members enabled their re-election all other original members were ejected due to delay in securing land for much needed schools championed by both successful candidates.
In 1885 he succeeded in establishing a Boarding Out Committee  for "deserted and and orphaned children" and as the Boarding Out Committe minutes record he successfully placed 36 children in "cottage homes" and local Board Schools in that year. Later he was to dramaticllay increase the number of eligible children to enter foster homes.
From the outset he placed heavy emphasis on after care and particular emphasis on training girls and guardianship of these young women some time after they ceased to "on the books" of the Guardians. In the 1920's obituarists were to comment on his willingness to accommodate in his own home those whose service had ended through no fault of their own.
Throughout the two volumes of Boarding Out Committe minutes there are examples of his intervention in case of sudden critical illness to transport a child to London for treatment and report to Committee the outcome of his intervention. he was also available to assit in removal of children from unsuitable foster parents.
The 1887 movement in Bromley to recruit and elect women Guardians was supported as he felt that the success of Boarding Out Children should increase and in other unions Ladies Boarding Out Committees were succeeding. In 1890 Bromley Union had Isabella Frances Akers elected. After her first remarks to the Guardians Gedney was somewhat ruffled by criticism of the conditions for women and children but characteristically his criticism of her remarks and her apology if she had offended Board members was met with amiable support. Indeed as Miss Akers introduced reforms to the Union she was fully supported and soon more parishes elected Women guardians in some cases unopposed. After the tragic death of Miss Akers her work was continued by a  highly effective group of women guardians and fostering in the rapid expansion of Bromley Union's population was well organised to support those leaving foster care.
The 14 year old Charles William Gedney's naval career and injury in active service overseas was perhaps the influence that ensured that Naval Training ships and Army recruitment was pursued by the Union's children and also provided funding for accommodation for young female servants out of situations by supporting the Bromley Servants House. The injured naval midshipman had come home to take up a new career and he pursued every opportunity for young men and women to emigrate to Canada through numerous Emigration Socities and ensured that the Guardians had Emigration Committee and funding to assist where necessary.
It is difficult to write about Bromley Poor Law Union Workhouse in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth century without appreciating his great contribution.
He was a mover in developing the Union Workhouse accommodation in general but especially separate housing for Boys and Girls in houses along Wellbrook Road,removing children entirely from the adult accommodation. He also proposed improved Infirmary accommodation in added wings and eventual improvement to casuals accommodation and saniation for women. He was pragmatic enough to point out the unsuitability of requiring casuals to perform "the stone test" a fitness to work test by breaking stone as the 1830's Workhouse housed casuals in cells unlike other Workhouses.
Nowadays we grumble about snowfall inconveniencing travel; but in the Victorian era frost and snow in the first three months of each year stopped farm workers and those in the building industry from working and many local families became destitute. Gedney's concern to improve the Workhouse diet had lead to a Workhouse Bakery (and incidentally apprenticeships for those boarded out). It became possible for the bakery to not only feed inmates but to offer relief in seasonal hardship. The Relieving Officers worked closely with the local government to open up labour yards at Beckenham and Waldo Road Bromley and Gedney would on these occasions visit the men during their lunch break.
When proposals to reform Workhouses were tabled Gedney referred to Locksbottom as being a House for the elderly and sick and was able to demonstrate this by numbers of able bodied poor being lower than comparable Unions whilst the Infirmary was larger.
It was also his activity alone to organise local efforts year round to support the annual "Workhouse Holiday" each August or September from 1880 onwards. Through the generosity of local landowners and businesses offering transport all inmates of the Workhouse would be taken for a day for lunch and tea. Sir John Lubbock became the regular host at High Elms of 200-300 men women and children and many Bromley businesses which maintained vehicles would transport them there. Mister Gedney would always speak and offer a vote of thanks to the host and year round would ensure that tableware seating .
As we will see in another blog Christmas Day in the Workhouse at Locksbottom became inseperable from the Gedney family.
Charles William Gedney died on 7 January 1927 peacefully in his sleep days after organising his 57th annual Christmas Day for the Workhouse which he always referred to as the "grim grey Great House" but the Workhouse was a much more effective organisation for his long service and zealous efforts to improve the lives of those who were admitted.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Charles William Gedney:Part I Journalist and Author

Charles William Gedney was born at Aldwick Sussex and educated a private school. At the age of 14 he became a naval cadet and served with distinction as a Midshipman under the captaincy of Captain William Peel V C aboard HMS Shannon 1855 when he formed part of the  naval brigade at the relief of Lucknow dragging guns overland to defend and fortify the garrison under siege.
He also sailed up the Yangtze River in 1857 when he was one of 46 injured sailors in the Battle of Canton (1857). This injury ended his career at sea and he returned home to take up journalism working for two years as journalist on the Daily News.
In 1865 he arrived in Bromley and began to publish the "The Bromley Telegraph" printed at 25 Market Square, a house at the south east corner of Market Square which Horsbrugh describes as:
"a secluded house with an ample forecourt containing lime trees and enclosed by wooden railings". It had in the 1801 census of Bromley been home to Edward Broad and subsequently occupied by Miss Anne Broad "a very select dressmaker,many of the county families from the surrounding neighbourhood being her patrons."
Gedney had a printing office on the ground floor which is sometimes referred to as "Telegraph" Printing Works Bromley.
Gedney became famous for his "highly seasoned" local reading which under his pseudonym "Idler in Local Gossip" criticised the way that local affairs were organised. This pungent outspoken critical attitude to authority's was to lead him to defend 20 actions against him in the High Court. He later joked that he lost only two which " I should have won and won one which I should have lost".
Despite this reputation locally described by Horsbrugh on his arrival in 1881 in Bromley as "a dangerous iconoclast and doubtless would have been dubbed a Bolshevist had that appellation existed" Horsbrugh became a personal friend and  described  a kind and jovial disposition encouraging others to enter journalism. He was somewhat ahead of his time in that those in public positions were unaccustomed to criticism.
He was a snooker player at The Liberal Club in Bromley and a supporter of Liberal politics in the town.
He was angered by the Local Board of Guardians refusal to admit journalists to meetings at the Workhouse and was also dissatisfied by the diet of inmates at what he referred to as The "grim and grey Great House".
In Part II I will pursue his action against the manner in which the Workhouse was being run.
In 1896 Gedney printed and published
This publication was successful and shows Gedney at leisure as a Fly Fisherman travelling to Ireland Scotland and Wales by train to enjoy his sport. The book is still read in various formats available online.
For many years he wrote the "Circular Notes "column in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.
In 1902 he sold his printing business to the proprietors of the Bromley Chronicle and for ten years from 1902-1912 the BromleyTelegraph and Chronicle was published.
After retirement he cared for his wife Annie during a lengthy illness until her death at their Glebe Road home on 17 October 1906. She was buried at the London Road Cemetery on 22 October 1906 when Charles was accompanied by his three sons at the funeral described by The Bromley Record obituary.
As we will see in Part II his kind and jovial disposition was to bless many lives throughout his long years of public service.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Bromley Mystery of an Abandoned Baby

The human condition changes little no matter which  century and abandoning children has an inherent mystery.
As I have researched the population of children boarded out from the Bromley Kent Poor Law Union from 1885 onwards there is only one child whose name and circumstances remain a mystery to me.
On the evening of the 20 March 1895 a male baby about six months old was abandoned in the porch of Pulham House Palace Grove the household of Mister A. Scott.
Elinda Potter a servant employed by Mister Scott thought she heard a baby crying in the front of the house and when she opened the door she found a small bundle containing the baby a feeding bottle and an attached note.The child had been carefully wrapped in a maroon covering.
The handwritten note said:
"Dear Kind People
Will you be so kind as to give this little baby a night's shelter as he is motherless,fatherless and there is no one to take him. I have done the best I could for the little lamb while i had him but I am almost destitute myself. Would you be so kind as to send him to the Swanley Home for little boys;and do not send him to the Union.it was his mother's wish for him to go to a Home".
The police were called and Doctor Ilott in his role as Divisional Surgeon was called to examine the child who was found to be healthy. He advised the police to remove the child to The Workhouse.
The Bromley Record account in its April edition records this detail and says the child was taken to the Workhouse and that the police were making "every inquiry" into the matter.
What is equally mysterious is that there is no record of admission to the Workhouse for a male baby estimated to be six months of age in the Porter's admission and discharge register,
It would in my experience be most unusual for no record to be kept-on the contrary one of the first issues confronting the Master and Board of Guardians would be to establish who the parents were and their circumstances.
The Boarding Out Commitee meeting on 5 April records that two foundling chargeable to the Union are in the Workhouse and the Committee recommends to the Guardians that a reward for the apprehension of the parents should be offered. It is not possible to identify these two children by name or subsequent reference to boarded out children in either the discharge entries or Boarding Out minutes or the two volumes of Secretary's register which provides detailed biography of the boarded out chidren and their after-care as well as years of birth and foster parents.
There is no evidence of the the Guardians placing a male child in a childrens home which would match these circumstances or reference to the removal of a child by a parent.
In most cases of abandonment the Union record sources are thorough  and one or two foster parents (usually with nursing backgrounds) are foster parents to small babies and every effort is made to ensure that small children are not admitted to the House. At this time the Ladies Committee were responsible for the placement of children and reported quarterly to the Board of Guardians so that detailed records are available.
The note attached to the baby refers to the Farningham Home for Little Boys at Horton Kirby which would not have accepted a baby. The Farningham Home for Little Boys is used by Bromley Union for boys up to 10 years of age often those who are difficult to maintain in foster care. Whether this child died or remained for some years in the Workhouse due to illness or disability is not known.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Monday, 31 October 2016

Miss Isabella Frances Akers of Warren Wood Hayes

The Church of Saint Mary The Virgin Hayes contains a black and white marble pavement in the sanctuary and an oak rail in memory of Mrs Frances Whitmore and her daughter Isabella. The work was donated by Aretas Akers Douglas and his sister Mrs Eleanor Mary Norman as a memorial to their mother and sister and were to a design by Thomas Jackson M.A. carried out in 1904/5.
Isabella and her mother are buried side by side in Hayes Churchyard to the right hand side of the Hambro family memorial. Mrs Frances Whitmore died in 1900 and as we will see Miss Isabella Frances Akers died in 1903.
Aretas Akers had married Frances Maria Brandram and the couple had raised their family as he served as a clergyman. Isabella was born on 15 May 1853  but was to become an orphan at the age of 3. Her father Aretas Akers had an interesting family history;the family in the eighteenth century had considerable land and slaves in the West Indies and on the abolition of slavery was compensated by the British Government. Isabella's inheritance was invested wisely on her behalf she held among other shares in the Great Western Railway and is designated with her mother in the census as of independent means.
Their son Aretas Akers who was born at West Malling in October 1851 where his father was rector later changed his name to Akers-Douglas and in 1880 was elected to Parliament. In 1902 he became Home Secretary and later was created Viscount Chilston and had inherited Chilston Park, The change of his name was in accordance with the terms of a family will which provided his inheritance see Wikipedia 1st Viscount Chilston.
Eleanor Mary Akers married Edward Norman in 1875 two years after her mother who had remarried and been widowed for a second time had taken a lease on Warren Wood Hayes Common in September 1873.
I am grateful for the generous assistance of Jean Wilson co-author with the late Trevor Woolman of Hayes: A History of a Kent Village Volume I and her detailed research on the house. The confusion between Warren Wood and the neighbouring house which came to be known as The Warren and still stands today as part of the Metropolitan Police estate is obvious as the census enumerator in the 1881 refers to the House it's lodge stables housing as The Warren whereas in 1891 the enumerator refer's to Mrs Whitmore's Gardeners Cottage and the house as part of Hayes Common. The houshold employed in 1881 a coachman and a gardener and his family as well as domestic servants. In the 1891 census entry a butler cook and four other domestic servants are employed. The house no longer exists but was occupied after 1903.
Isabella Frances Akers was the first elected woman to serve as a Guardian for Bromley Poor Law Union. She was to fulfil her commitment to "serve the women children and disabled of the Union" throughout her years as a Board Guardian and it was typical of her commitment to serve that she died tragically entering the Workhouse to attend a Board Meeting in 1903.
We can with a twenty first century perspective only imagine what the only woman elected to serve on a Poor Law Union Board experienced in an all male Board room. Her ability as a member earned unanimous approval for her proposals and her commitment to orphans and the deserted children of the Union Workhouse emerges most strongly from the pages of Committee minutes. She was the Guardian to join the Boarding Out Committee 5 years after the all male Committee had begun to recruit foster parents in Bromley.
Isabella had worked with the matron of the Workhouse to draw up an inventory of clothing for boys and girls and her attention to the provision of winter capes for boys and an ulster caped winter coat for girls which could be made by women in the Workhouse work room to patterns (by Paton and Baldwin) was the beginning of her work to research formally propose and implement a Committee of Lady Visitors which I have previously written about.  She was to work with the Boarding Out and Cottage Training Homes Association as well as her personal visits to foster parents and children in their care and assisting Charles Gedney who chaired the Boarding Out Commitee in his efforts to obtain urgent admissions to hospitals in London or urgent alternative foster homes on the death or illness of their foster mother.
There are indications that her health had required her to go away for three months on health grounds in her formal notice of absence contained in Commitee minutes but no one at the Union was prepared for the tragedy of her death. At the age of 49 she was in April of 1903 accustomed to travelling by tricycle to meetings at the Union Workhouse. In 1901 the most popular ladies tricycle was the Rudge-Whitworth which replaced their earlier models with a "modern" front brake to replace the earlier fixed wheel brake. I am grateful to the Old Bike Museum for their help. On the23 April 1903 Isabella Akers had ridden from her home at Warren Wood to the Union Workhouse. Without gearing the journey which has several inclines would have been challenging at  Farnborough Common. The Bromley Record obituary May 1903 reports that she had pushed her tricycle up the incline at Farnborough Common remounting at the top and rode up to the lodge of the Workhouse where she fell from her tricycle and died when her heart failed. The Obituary further records that she was unable to speak and great shock was felt by all at the loss of a well respected woman.
On 23 April 1903 at Hayes Church the Rector began the service which was then conducted by a bishop. Isabella was buried next to her mother in Hayes Churchyard.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Monday, 3 October 2016

Guidance on choice of Foster Home in the 1890's

The Bromley Poor Law Union handbook for Lady Visitors in 1894 see previous blog contains both national guidance and local Union guidance of choice of foster home.
Article 4 of the Local Government Board guidance specifies that "not more than two children should be boarded out by the Guardians in the same house unless all such are brothers and sisters and do not exceed four in number...no child should be placed in a home which would result in five children."
Those who had received Relief from the Poor Law Union in the preceding twelve months were ineligible to be considered as prospective foster parents.
Article 5 of the Local Government Board specifies that the creed of the foster parent should not be different to that of the child.
There are within the Bromley Union Ladies Committee minutes examples of the need to face these circumstances. In many examples of large family groups of orphaned or abandoned children the local practice is to try whenever practicable to place siblings in homes to enable them to attend the same school; there are changes of foster carer to bring about such circumstances.
Bromley Union Guardians do however encounter difficulty when Roman Catholic children need to be accommodated. The problem vexes local Roman Catholic clergy and Guardians alike despite exhaustive attempts to attract Roman Catholic foster parents over nearly twenty years  and children who might be boarded out are admitted to a Roman Catholic orphanage in Orpington rather than foster homes. In some cases clergy accept non-Catholic foster parents but organise Roman Catholic schooling in efforts to meet the child's interests and provide Roman Catholic education.

  • Child over seven years of age should never be allowed to sleep in the same room as a married couple
  • No child to be boarded out in a house where an adult lodger is accommodated "this rule is often evaded after the child has been some time in a home"
There is an example in the Bromley Union of the admission to the household of two teenage male lodgers who the visitor interviews and finds "most respectable Gentlemen" nevertheless the foster parent who claims not be to aware of the rule is required to cease the lodging arrangement or have the child removed.

Bromley Union Guardians require reports to them to reflect:

  • The moral character of prospective foster parents
  • that sleeping accommodation be inspected for future as well as present
  • income of the family should be quite sufficient for the child's maintenance without any payment for foster care
  • age and health of foster parents not only for present but for as long as child remains
  • "young couples with increasing families are not as a general rule good foster parents as the children become nurses or drudges"
  • boys should not be placed with widows or single women "they usually grow out of control of women"
  • country homes are as rule to be preferred for girls
Whilst some of these rules seem quaint to the 21st century reader the experience of failing or inadequate foster care contained in the pages of the Committe Minutes reflects the challenges that foster parents faced. The male foster parent who loses employment is faced with a dilemma as to claim poor relief would lead to removal of foster children;the Guardians tend to be pragmatic and make every effort to secure him employment to avert alternate arrangement for foster children.
Sleeping accommodation can be a difficulty as a small child at the beginning of foster care can by age 13 be large and strong enough to enter naval Training and a number of "large strong lads" are considered by Committee.
There are certainly failures in fostering which arise from foster parents inappropriately requiring the child to nurse or perform heavy domestic duties usually associated with declining mental or physical health of the foster carer or introduction of young children.
The presumption that a widow or single woman acting as a foster parent and being unable to control boys is confounded by the experienced foster carers who are widowed and cope with children with special needs or develop serious health problems. There are exceptions to the assumption but there are equally failures to be able to control the excesses of dishonesty including thefts from both foster parents by some children. Young women beyond control of foster parents are also evident and several young women require admission to institutions which are described as strict. In one case detention in hospital for danger to herself and others is described by visitor involved in after care visits.
The Bromley Union certainly began in 1885 with a policy of recruiting in the "country" parishes;however the development of housing in the Bromley Common and growth of the town lead to a rise in foster care in and near the town itself.
The introduction of the Lady Visitor's Committee and reports to Guardians forms a social history of the development of social work and regulated boarding out of orpans and abandoned children by Bromley Union. We are fortunate to have surviving Union records which by the 1900's also compromise a case note for each child recording both their foster care history and after care reports. I will blog about this history as work on this period progresses.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016 

Bromley Union Kent Boarding Out Committee and Visitors Handbook

The records held at Bromley Historic Collections relating to boarded out children include a surviving copy of the Handbook reference 846GBy/A/W/9 given to Lady Visitors (and Committee members).
It also lists the Committee members and Relieving Officers in the 4 Union Districts and Union Doctors for the districts including the Beckenham Doctor A Primrose Wells of Bournville Beckenham who was male despite his chosen first name.
Miss Akers 1893 formal proposal to form a Committe of Lady Visitors from the constituent parishes of the Union had lead the Boarding Out Committe on 5 January 1894 to approve and submit to the Local Government Board for their approval the following Committee of Visitors.
Bromley              Miss Hay "Parkfield" who died and was replaced by Mrs Beeby London Road
                          Mrs Partridge "Barnfield"
                          Mrs Dodgson "Hayesford"
                          Miss Martindale "Overfield" Bickley
Chelsfield           Mrs Edward Norman
Chislehurst         Miss Willis Lamona Villa
Downe                Miss Harris Orange Court
Farnborough        Mrs Preston
Hayes                  Miss Brett Ash Lodge (Hayes part of Keston)
Keston                 Mrs Dudin Broadmoor Keston
Saint Pauls Cray   Mrs William Nash
West Wickham     Mrs Packe Hawes Down

The Committee was responsible for:

  • the provision of homes
  • superintendence of homes within the limits of this union for orphan and deserted children chargeable to the common fund of the Union
  • a fee of four shillings a week per child up to age 16 for lodging exclusive of clothing school fees and fees for medical attendance medicines and medical extras
  • a quarterly clothing allowance
  • payment of one penny a week to the head teacher for each child whose attendance was to be reported quarterly to the Boarding Out Committee of the Union
  • burial expenses for deceased children
  • payments to District Medical Officers who are to report on health of each child quarterly

Each Lady Visitor was allowed stationery and postage expenses each quarter in order to submit reports and to enter in correspondence with potential employers and employers of those children in employment and after care. The visitors soon identified needs which were not met and with the exception of their Secretary all devoted this allowance to form a fund to pay for fares and other unmet needs of the children.
The Handbook contained Local Government Board requirements and some experience that Miss Akers had obtained from other Union Lady Visitors;in addition the requirements of the Bromley Union are specified. The latter include:
"a member of the Committee should visit each home at least once a month at varying intervals and by surprise keeping a record of her visits and taking special notice of
 the health of the children
the food supplied (occasional meal time visits) "The appearance of the children will indicate whether the food is the right quantity and quality"
clothing "This should be examined thoroughly gone over half yearly.The visitor should observe what underclothing the child is wearing at the time".
 An inventory of clothing issued by the Matron of the Workhouse had to be maintained and recovered if the child was removed from a foster home for any reason. Within the clothing list there are two specific items which within the minutes of the boarding out Committee are proposed by Miss Akers the only female member of that Committee. She proposes that boys be issued with a cape for winter outer wear and the girls receive an Ulster waterproof overcoat. Although commonly associated as a male overcoat with caped sleeves by the 1890's various paterns and styles were available for girls see girls Ulster coat.
In late 1894 one visitor reports to the Boarding Out Committee that she does not in conscience feel able to make "surprise" visits at mealtimes or examine boys underwear. Her continued service as visitor is welcomed by the Committee on the understanding that she will "in my own way" ensure the adequacy of both food and clothing.
The visitors were to report on
the adequacy of accommodation available for present and future accommodation
cleanliness
sleeping arrangements within the household bedding to be inspected "It should be clearly understood that these inspections are not made on suspicion but because the visitor is bound to report to Committee from their knowledge at first hand".
temperance "on no account should a child be sent to a public house for beer or for any other purpose".
aftercare
In no circumstances should a foster child be returned to the Union Workhouse without the knowledge of the visitor and transfer of children "should be made without removal to the Workhouse". It was the role of the visitor to receive complains from foster parents and in case of requested removal of foster children the visitor was required to communicate immediately with the Board.
There is within the minutes of the Committee ample evidence that Relieving Officers and the Chairman of the Boarding Out Committee and Secretary were supportive of foster parents coping with difficulty with challenging children and every effort is made to prevent breakdown of established care arrangement. The aftercare of children who leave school and remain in foster home and enter work or who enter service is one testament to the strength of these relationships with ongoing correspondence even after emigration reporting on the welfare of those for which formal responsibilty has ceased.
Emphasis is placed on the relationships between visitor and child,visitor and foster carer to achieve a succesful transition to employment.
The Boarding Out Committee minutes record the pain of some children in facing life ouside the Workhouse. Guidance is given to visitors about pocket money "in the Workhouse Schools they have little temptation to dishonesty but when they come out and see shops the desire to buy sweets or other things comes on them and if they have nothing they are tempted to steal".In many cases foster care is not able to assist children who had deeply rooted problems of lying and dishonesty. Some are called before the Committee and leave foster care to enter institutional care in an effort to divert them.
I will blog again about some of the guidance offered as these reflect Local Government attitudes in the last quarter of Queen Victoria's reign.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016